Are you a dragon or a unicorn?

Most of us like animals, don't we? We even perceive ourselves as a certain type of animal that we like in particular and perceive others in this way, too. They are always a good drawing material. I've noticed boys have a tendency towards drawing spiders, snakes, tigers and dinosaurs. Dangerous and scary creatures/beings. It has something to do with testosterone. 😛 And girls like cute and cuddly things and beings in their drawings. . .

Of course this is not necessarily a rule, but experience shows it is often the case. However, history teaches us that the way we perceive certain animals has a lot to do with our social and religious environment or background.

Happy hedgehog

Animals have always been an inspiration to all of us. They are an important part of our cultural structure, not only for adults, but especially for children. Our relationship towards them has been changing drastically throughout history but nevertheless, it has always been important. We know this for a fact because illustrations of animals can be found even from the Prehistoric Era and are just as popular/common nowadays. They play an important role in our lives all over the world, in all cultures.

Also, religion has had a very important influence on how we see them and how they are portrayed. Animals are frequently used as self-reflection. We use them as metaphors for certain human characteristics. Through stories and illustrations they become close friends to our children and can be a good educational tool to devise certain complex types of behaviour for children in a kind and interesting way. Maybe even to challenge certain stereotypes.

Whimsy cat

I'm no different than others. Guess my hormones and cultural environment got me 😛 I like painting animals as well. I usually put them in a comfortable floral or surreal environment. Christianity divided animals into the good and bad ones. Usually, they got their characteristics based on their appearance. Nice-looking animals were and are considered cute and good, and scary looking ones are considered bad, which can be completely unrelated to an animal’s true nature.

However, according to this explanation, I often paint the nice and kind ones as the 'girly types'. I think it is because in most of my paintings I seek tenderness, kindness, sensibility, femininity, and something that stirs up pleasant emotions in us. I hope children recognise good friends in them, as well.


One thing is certain, though, no matter how we perceive animals - as good, bad, strong, magical, scary, cuddly and so on, they will always be a huge inspiration for illustrators, children and everyone else.

Read more Animals in illustration

A boy with an elephant